By Photojournalist Dave Moto
I had a chance Thursday night at the Ringside Café in Downtown St. Pete to sit down with Tristan Dusek, Tyler Dusek, Eric Whitener and Bobby McElroy, collectively known as Stonegrey. The guys, all still in their 20’s and 11 years together as a band. We talked prior to the show about the past 11 years, their beginnings and what they see in the next decade.
The band was started by then, 16-year-old brothers Tristan and Tyler. Both were playing in the school band. Influenced by Guns and Roses, Alice in Chains and Ozzy, they went on a quest to find some like-minded musicians to share the dream they had of making it as a rock band. They auditioned Eric and knew by the second song he was their vocalist. They also invited another guitar player who was into Ska music, but just wanted to be in a band regardless of style. They originally named the band Stone Grey Molly, until Molly became the slang word for an illegal drug. The guys then decided to simplify things and they became Stonegrey. After learning enough covers, they eventually booked a gig. No one seems to remember the venue, but remember they had no idea how to act on stage, except their Ska expert. They all laugh remembering him jumping all over the stage while they watched in awe until he eventually fell off of it and into the crowd. He was no longer in the band.
The guys worked harder and were determined to see their dreams through. They entered the Hillsborough County Battle of the Bands and won 2nd place on the first try. With another year of experience behind them they returned to the competition more determined, and this time won the show! Part of the winnings was studio time at the famous Morris Recording Studios. For the first time the guys began work on making their own music. I ask the guys what they considered their sound. Eric calls it “Rock Revival” while Tristen called it “Rock n Roll”. Newest member Bobby McElroy called it “Sledgy”. A hit you in your chest sound. I liked his answer!
The guys have enjoyed much success here in the Bay Area. They have worked with Peter Klett in the studio, Opened for Candlebox at the Ritz in Ybor, recorded several music videos and enjoy a steady booking of clubs here and throughout Florida, but I feel like the guys are still shooting for bigger things.When I asked the guys what the next decade looks like for Stonegrey, they all agree the dream is still big arenas, tours and success with spreading their music. Realizing the dynamics of 11 years together, they recently enrolled in marriage counseling to help them maintain the long-term partnership band life requires. The answer that hit home for me was from Tristen. He said he didn’t care if he ever got recognized in public. No interest in fame. His dream is to see a full arena and simply rock the crowd. Reminiscent of the Bon Jovi lyric “I’ve seen a million faces…and I’ve rocked them all”. They admit the challenge these days is trying to use and master social media as a platform. They said it’s hard to figure out when their highest viewed post is of Tyler dancing on a RV instead of the music videos they have released. They say the hunger is still there and they will continue to bring their best every time they hit a stage for every single fan.
The last 2 years have been a killer for not only live performances, but music as a whole, as we have all suffered through the Covid pandemic. The guys didn’t let it slow them down on their quest of reaching their dreams. They used the time to record new music and further map the direction and plans they need to execute to find that next step of reaching their dream.
As we finished up the interview and refreshened our drinks, the guys gathered up their game faces and hit the stage. I grabbed my camera gear to capture some shots for this story. I could see through my lens not only the look of determination, but 4 guys loving what and where they were. You can bet that Stonegrey will be hitting National stages soon. Their talent and tenacity speak to that. They have survived for over a decade together. Not a lot of bands can boast that. I reflect back to Tristan’s earlier answer. This night might not have had a million faces in the crowd, but every face there moved Stonegrey even closer to that goal!